Abandoned Boat’s Steel To Boost Offshore Reef; New Hope Long A Harbor Eyesore

Abandoned Boat’s Steel To Boost Offshore Reef; New Hope Long A Harbor Eyesore
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WEST OCEAN CITY — There is new hope for the dilapidated 70-foot commercial vessel scuttled for years along the bulkhead at the commercial harbor in West Ocean City as much of the ship’s steel will find a home on one of the artificial reef sites offshore.

A few years back, the owners of the New Hope abandoned the vessel when it became disabled and it took up a semi-permanent residence near the end of the bulkhead along the south side of the commercial harbor. The half-submerged vessel became a familiar sight for recreational and commercial boaters heading in and out of the harbor, but as the New Hope steadily deteriorated from years of neglect, it increasingly became a potential navigation hazard as it began to list to one side and slowly submerge.

For years, there have been on-again, off-again efforts to remove the sinking New Hope from the harbor, but there were always liability concerns, funding issues and oversight questions to deal with. Everyone agreed it needed to go, but nobody could agree on who should pay for it. The vessel’s owners were long gone and state and federal officials went back and forth on how to get rid of it. Most recently, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program was seeking possible grant funding to remove it.

Finally, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) contracted Murtech Marine out of Salisbury to dismantle and remove the old boat from the West Ocean City commercial harbor landscape. This week, Murtech sent its giant utility boat “MV Iron Lady” under the direction of Captain Jeremiah Kogon to West Ocean City to begin the tedious process of dismantling the vessel.

“Our company, Murtech Marine, based out of Salisbury, was awarded the DNR contract to remove the vessel New Hope from the commercial harbor,” said Kogon this week. “We deployed our utility ship, the ‘MV Iron Lady,’ and have begun disassembling the vessel.”

By Wednesday afternoon, much of the steel superstructure had been removed from the vessel’s topside and crews had begun the unenviable task of removing the rotting wooden hull. While what was left of the sorry looking remains sat half-submerged along the bulkhead in the harbor, steel pieces were stacked neatly on the deck of the “MV Iron Lady” and will soon find a home on the growing artificial reef network off the coast of Ocean City, providing some glimmer of hope for the tired old “New Hope.”

“All of the steel pieces will be donated to the Ocean City Reef Foundation and will become part of Captain Bill Gower’s Reef,” said Kogon this week. “The rest of the vessel including the wood hull will be removed and taken to the landfill. The boat name New Hope will be salvaged from the bow and will be auctioned off at the next Ocean City Reef Foundation dinner where the proceeds will be used to help build even more offshore reefs off Ocean City.”

In what is being hailed as a win-win situation, Ocean City Reef Foundation officials will soon head out to the Bob Gower Reef site, named for the late and beloved captain, and mark the site for the “MV Iron Lady” to make its latest deposit. The “MV Iron Lady” has been instrumental in other artificial reef projects and the workhorse for many of its larger contributions.

During the last 17 years, the Ocean City Reef Foundation has submerged tons of material, from old boats to retired military equipment to discarded construction materials, to create a vast artificial reef network off the coast. The artificial reefs have enhanced habitat for fish and other sea creatures up and down the food chain.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.